The reading world is a richer place since Bruce Cooke left life as a plumber and turned to
teaching and eventually to writing. Though he has two novels in print and a number of short
stories published, he also has seen his original adaptation of†The Lion, The Witch, and the
Wardrobe†turned into a $1 million production for the Australian stage. Ironically, though,
Cooke's real forte is telling stories in the real world and not those in fantasy.
His first two novels,†The Irish Retribution†and†The Pursuit of Mary McBride
(also reviewed on
Myshelf), were released simultaneously by Swimming Kangaroo last summer. They are
two very different stories that capture readers immediately. When both were offered to me for
review, I was intrigued by the vast difference in content and approach that Cooke offered in
The Irish Retribution, which will be reviewed here, is the story of war correspondent
Tully Sanderson, an Australian national, and his estranged daughter Carrie, who never really knew
how her Irish mother died. The novel begins with a tense scene between Tully and Carrie where the
young woman pulls a gun and announces she is seeking revenge for his part in killing her mother.
This act of revenge, known as the Irish Retribution, is set aside as the story of Tully's life
and character as a reporter covering the Vietnam War unfolds. This tale, though it occurs after
Carrie's mother's death, lays the foundation for the complexities in Tully's life that eventually
bring him to that fateful meeting with Carrie. Only then does the reader find out what really
happened. Needless to day, Tully Sanderson's life is rife with women, children whose lives he has
not become a part of, and intense guilt, even though he has become a world-renown journalist and
his daughter looks to be following in his career path.
The convolutions in Tully Sanderson's story are many, but it is the accuracy with which author
Bruce Cooke paints the experiences of a war correspondent that take this novel to a higher plane.
This backdrop of war and its inherent dangers allow the very human drama to play out in vivid colors.
Relationships (and the lack of attention to them) are the hallmark of this novel, although this
novel would by no means be considered a romance. It is certainly a portrait of the evils of war
and the collateral damage done by it.
Bruce Cooke is an astute modern storyteller. I highly recommend†The Irish Retribution.